As the government increasingly turns to appalling violence in their efforts to subdue the unshakable will of the Standing Rock Sioux, the protesters fighting to protect their sacred lands have a new ally – our veterans.
Hundreds of veterans are planning to travel to North Dakota to join the protesters and assemble as “an unarmed, peaceful militia to defend water protectors from assault and intimidation at the hands of the militarized police force and DAPL Security.” A Facebook page devoted to the event has 600 confirmed marchers and 4500 potential more. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) will be joining them at the protest site.
“This country is repressing our people. If we’re going to be heroes, if we’re really going to be those veterans that this country praises, well, then we need to do the things that we actually said we’re going to do when we took the oath to defend the Constitution from enemies foreign and domestic” says prominent veteran and former Baltimore police officer Michael A. Wood.
“I’ve been watching the news, how they’re spraying everybody and using rubber bullets, and these guys are fighting for what they believe in and as a veteran we took an oath. We’re not just there to protect Americans in foreign countries. We’re here to protect this country inside of it, too” said former Marine Jade Emilio Snell.
The protesters are in desperate need of more support as police turn to riot suppression tactics commonly used in authoritarian dictatorships. Since beatings, mass arrests, and targeted sexual humiliation has failed to break the spirit of the protesters, they have turned to outright violence, using water cannons to soak protesters in freezing temperatures and unleashing brutal fusillades of rubber bullets and concussion grenades.
Hundreds have been injured from bullet fire. One protester will lose her arm after a grenade detonation sliced through her muscles in a gruesome fashion. Five to six hundred have been treated for hypothermia after being hit by water cannons. The veterans, however, are undaunted at the prospect of violence. “Bring Body armor, gas masks, earplugs AND shooting mufflers (we may be facing a sound cannon) but no drugs, alcohol or weapons” reads the Facebook page.
As we travel home for Thanksgiving, remember that three hundred years later, there are Native Americans still being repressed and abused by an uncaring government and the insatiable greed of the white man. We salute our brave veterans for standing up and protecting the American people against corporate tyranny.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.